Potty Training Your Child With Autism: Your Ultimate Step By Step Guide To Conquer The Diaper Saga!!
For the longest period of time I was scared and literally have mini heart attacks whenever potty training my son Muhammad came up. He was non-verbal and very low functioning when we started our journey. 1 year later not only he developed massive language, communication and social skills but graduated Pre-school with flying colours and pretty much potty trained.
Why did I say pretty much?
Because it’s been a recent development and he got 95% the hang of it and there are sometimes occational “misses”. Even with neuroatypical kids occational miss is ok when your child has been on the training for only a month or two!!
Summer is here and a perfect time to potty train!!
Grab a drink and Let’s dive into the nitty gritty of conquering this deeply stressful and anxiety inducing saga of being an autism parent, shall we?
PS: Don’t want to read whole story? Read the HOT TIPS below each subheading
(Although Reading The Full Story Is Highly Recommended!!)
Step 1: Identify The Need and the reason why you are stuck
Oh yes it means you get a serious nudge from somewhere that you can’t postpone this any further. For me it was enrolling him for his upcoming September ’21 Kindergarten. I was told that without “official Low Functioning” certificate I might be called in every time there is a poopy diaper of sort!! I didn’t want my child to feel embarrassed as Lord knows how that ends up making us feel. I never forgot how I felt in my early childhood as an unidentified neurodiverse with learning and memory difficulties. I had trauma memory from kindergarten days and I identified my trauma was the reason I was so scared and stuck.
Another reason for my stuckness was that being a Muslim I can’t pray if I get spray or streaks of poop/pee in my clothes and body. Potty training meant a plethora of such accidents happening on the regular. So once I found my 2 big “why” I went on to researching on overcoming them. A lot of the times identifying the reason of stuckness automatically loosen up the stuckness in question because then the Reticular Activating System (RAS) can focus on finding easy, practical and low energy alternatives.
- Get mentally and emotionally ready. Find out the emotional reasons you are scared to start and then brainstorm a game plan. A lot of the anxiety is just our mind’s preoccupation. When you shine light by identifying, accepting and acknowledging then its easy to overcome. Start right away. Find out the “Reasons and Emotions” telling you that either you or your child is not ready (or both!!)
- Find your compelling “WHY” behind the need to potty train. For me it was registering for school which requires him potty trained. Find yours.
Step 2: Find Your Child’s schedule
I got this idea from an occupational therapist who gave us a complimentary session over the phone telling me the need to find his rhythm and schedule…….
But you know what?
My son had no freaking schedule! The rule is to keep checking a freshly put on diaper every 1 hour initially and then every 30 min and then every 15 min. For me this sounded very ardous. Nonetheless I talked with his daycare teacher as he was spending a major portion of the day there. We compared notes on when she finds him wetting the diaper. She mentioned he stays dry until lunch which means until that he is actually busy playing and not drinking that much so he stays dry. But at home during weekends he wouldn’t have that schedule since I remind him and encourage him to drink plenty. I figured I need to remind him every hour or so to use the potty. Then sometimes I would totally forget and he would use the diaper to pee. I talked with my support system that I feel guilty and not good enough because I couldn’t remind him periodically!! I was kindly told that It is OK to forget since I was rearing both my kids on my own without any help or support. My emotional stability was way more important and since I started the journey several months ahead of time I can go slow.
Permission is so important!! If you need someone to tell you this today, You Are Absolutely Enough and You Can Get Through This and Win with your child. I vouch for you.
- Be a detective and try to gauge the routine of your child’s pee and poop timings. You can do this by checking his fresh diaper at timely intervals and note down.
- Get help on board by getting your partner, his daycare teachers and anyone living with you so that they can help you overcome the challenges and help you in the journey.
- Give yourself love and grace for taking things slow and steady. Use phone reminders to remind you to check the diaper if needed.
Step 3: Establish A Routine
I made into a routine to take him to either the training seat over our commode or his Paw Petrol potty every morning after he woke up and then before going to school. I also identified that after coming from his daycare he gets his “chocolate almond milk” and would wet his diaper 10-15 mins after that. So I put on a phone reminder to remind him to try after his snack. The 4th time I would take him was after dinner/before bedtime. So I took on taking him to his potty for 4 times a day for the first two weeks or so. Sometimes he would pee, other times he would shake his head or even cry holding on to his pants. There were 2 reasons for the crying, 1. He genuinely didn’t feel like he needs to pee or 2. He was very cranky. It was most of the times the 1st one. The discernment on whether he was not ready I would gently take him and remind to seat. He will shake his head, I will then pull his pant down and if he gets angry/upset I will put his pants up and try 15 mins later.
The Goal in this step is to create a new habit of taking him to the potty and encourage him with cuddle, praise, high 5s. No toys and especially no treats were used as I follow “The Autism Diet” protocol on him that I built for him and that I teach to my paid clients. Also giving treats and toys will make him wait for these to relieve himself and also this does more harm in the long run as your child will identify his responsibility to getting treats/toys as a norm. That will hinder progress.
- Identify his/her readiness and buy a potty that will attract him and remind to use it often.
- The goal is to establish a routine. So start by 3-4 times a day on a regular basis at times when your child is prone to pee/poop and it fits your lifestyle too. Make any process easy for your brain and mind to follow by removing hurdles head on.
- The resistance you feel towards any aspect of parenting your child will transfer to becoming his resistance too. So get your mindset on track and then begin.
- Start by changing his diapers to pull ups if you haven’t already. Change his diapers whenever you can in the washroom so that he associates that business to the washroom.
- Then for the potty run taking your child to the washroom, pull down his pants and seat him on the “training potty” heads attached to the adult commode. Ask him gently to pee, use shushing/splashing sound for auditory cue and wait a few minutes. Then whether he does or not put him down, use a tissue to show him to clean up and then pull the flash.
- Thank him, high 5 or hug him for allowing you to do the steps. This mini task routine will give him visual cues on the steps he needs to take to pee/poop. Remember whether he does anything or not every time you must go him through the whole steps so that it becomes a routine and knows what is expected of him.
- Can try the whole steps with his kid’s potty too. I tried both ways. Also if your child is seating on the adult commode make sure the training head has a cushioned seat and also put a small stool under his legs so that he feels safe and secured.
Step 4: Take The Plunge, Go Diaper less!!
I saw the biggest results by just accepting the responsibility that there might be more cleaning to come but this putting on diaper wasn’t just working as he wouldn’t get the cues from his body. So on one fine Friday evening I got bold and after his daycare I didn’t put on his diaper until it was bed time. That weekend, I kept housework very light and gave my attention to remind him to pee in the potty. Yes there were wet and solid accidents but then after a few days he didn’t like the feeling of mushed up poop in his underpants. He is verbal in a lot of the ways but he still doesn’t verbally say he wants potty. So it was a challenge and so is more majority of autism child. I will be honest and say I felt exhausted, tired, angry and anxious. But as with all the other parts of building up “The Autism Diet” protocol I kept my eyes on the prize and went on.
- After establishing some routine and regular potty timing that naturally comes to him, go diaper free.
- Use synthetic/swim trunks at home which will make sure he is not wearing wet pants and catch cold. That allowed the pee of flow out without soaking due to the synthetic nature of the material.
- Use cotton underpants to give the feeling of going diaperless and to also provide one layer of protection should there be poop accidents.
- Extend the number of times you remind your child as he grasps the timing and rhythm more with time.
- Keep fresh pants, wash cloth, wet tissue handy and nearby your kid to help you when needed.
- Praise every time he listens to you whether he actually pees or not. The positive encouragement works wonders and inspires him to try. Give extra love for a job well done!!
Step 5: Overnight Deals
When your child’s mind and body gets attuned to and he grabs his potty to pee or even poop then 80% of your job is done! After that keep reminding and asking, if he requires to use the potty or not at regular intervals or if he is too focused in his tv/play. Once he shows interest on his own you don’t need to shush him to do it as his brain has recognized and accepted this responsibility. Now it’s time for overnight training or naptime scheduling. Initially I will put on his diaper for the nap times as he would wet the bed sometimes being diaperless. Then as time progressed his holding capacity and bladder capacity/muscle tone improved. I watched for 4/5 days in a row that he didn’t pee during nap time and then I stopped using during naptime.
As for night routine, same rules apply. Even though during wake times your child is free but put on a fresh one at night to gauge his schedule. I have seen for the past several days that my son wakes up with dry diapers so I am ready to let him sleep without one!! As a precaution I will put waterproof/ training mattress cover to soak on if there is an accident.
There you go, I delivered the ultimate potty training guide for your autism child. If have been really scared deep down and have been giving “excuses” I TOTALLY GET YOU BUDDY, I DID TOO……………FOR YEARS!! And That’s A-OK!! The main thing is you can totally start, go through, finish and accomplish this monumental task when you break down the journey. Not All journeys are the same. My story will give you some perspective and we humans can do anything that we see others doing. So here I am dishing out all the “poopy deets :-D” for YOU. If you need more hand holding and a supportive tribe join my Private Facebook group called “Autism Diet Support” by clicking this link here https://www.facebook.com/groups/276102687017998
I wish You ALL The Very Best mama, you got this and I am Here With You. Hugs!!